Sunday, 29 November 2015

Success in University: It's Not Just About Marks

The adjustment from high school to university can be a tough transition for students, both academically and mentally. High school educators make great efforts to prepare students for the bigger work load and new learning environment. However, what is generally missing is the equal emphasis on self-care and preparation for the emotional experiences that may lie ahead. Universities generally foster an independent learning environment, which may contrast from what students experienced in high school. This is not to say that universities are disadvantaging students. But, students could be better prepared or simply made more aware of the ways in which university may differ from previous experiences in more ways than just academic expectations.  

Have you ever felt lonely?

My guess is that everyone reading this blog article has experienced loneliness before. This feeling is very common among university students, often experienced when the individual's need for social support and relationships is not met. This does not mean they have absolutely no social interaction or close friendships; it is all about your own perception. The feeling of loneliness is subjective and therefore it is different for everyone. Generally, loneliness means that one feels unsatisfied with their social relationships. Loneliness is linked to depression, psychological distress, and lower learning ability and achievement, therefore it should be given more attention when one is feeling this way.

Have you ever felt emotionally drained or pessimistic?

Another issue university students may face is feeling burnout. Burnout has mainly been studied in terms of its effect on people in the workplace and less on university students. Recently, a concept specifically for students called learning burnout is defined as feeling doubtful, inadequate, and exhausted due to academic pressures, excess homework, and other school-related stress. Students with learning burnout may feel they are not competent in their work, detached from social situations, emotionally drained, and have a negative view of their learning experience.

Loneliness and learning burnout experiences are increasing for students in university. University is a very high-stress environment and is also a big transition from high school or even from taking time off from school. An article written by Bryce Stoliker and Kathryn Lafreniere in 2015 explains that university fosters independence and this is related to diminished prior support systems. Having more pressures and less social support is linked to the experiences of loneliness and learning burnout that many students encounter. These experiences are associated with further mental and physical health problems, as well as a strains on their academics. The same article notes that students are at a greater risk of feeling loneliness and burnout if they are in their 2nd or 3rd year of university versus 1st or 4th year! This may be due to being in the middle of a program, feeling emotionally exhausted and thinking graduation is a long time away. 

Stoliker and Lafreniere’s study sought to find out if loneliness and burnout was associated with poor academic experiences and stress. 150 undergraduate students from an Ontario university participated in the study where they were assessed on their levels of stress, learning burnout, loneliness, and academic performance. Their results found that stress was linked to loneliness and exhaustion. Pessimism and loneliness also predicted university students' level of engagement regarding their academics. This all goes to show that academic performance has to do with a lot more than simply going to lectures and studying. We all have to take care of our mental health as well!

Students with high feelings of loneliness are likely to also feel high levels of burnout, and vice versa. The two issues have a relation to one another, therefore it is helpful to look at the two problems together, and their connections academic experiences in university. The results from the current study show that loneliness and burnout are issues that need more attention by university students. With final exams around the corner, any student readers should keep the following things in mind to fight feelings of loneliness and learning burnout:
  1. You are not alone! Loneliness is a common feeling experienced by many students around you. Don’t belittle your feelings of loneliness, but rather understand that it is a common issue that only makes us all more similar. 
  2. Stay connected with supportive people who are already in your life. University tends to diminish social support systems, therefore be aware of this and make attempts to maintain a good support system that existed prior to university to counteract the feelings of independence stemming from the university atmosphere. 
  3. Value and enjoy the time you have to yourself. Sometimes a break from social interaction can give you more time to focus on your own thoughts and emotional well-being. 
  4. Take breaks! Plan your time wisely to meet deadlines, but also schedule in breaks to give yourself a little time to cool down and step away from any feelings of stress. 
  5. If feelings of loneliness and learning burnout persist, and start to impact your daily functioning, seek counselling! There are counselling services on university campuses that are there to help.
-Shang Rashid


Stoliker, B. E., & Lafreniere, K. D. (2015). The influence of perceived stress, loneliness, and learning burnout on university students' educational experience. College Student journal, 49(1), 146-160. Retrieved from

No comments:

Post a Comment